Saturday, September 24, 2011

Closing the store works in real life!

So...Aristophanes was right!
(Although, I'd like to point out that Lysistrata is fictional, no matter what Nadia Bilchik thinks.

Thanks to my brother for catching this story for me.
A group of women in a violence-plagued area of the Philippines came up with their own weapon to end the fighting -- a sex strike.

Liz Stratton Closes the Store: Chapter Five

Liz A. Stratton Closes the Store
Chapter Five
Maren Bradley Anderson

This is the fifth chapter of Liz A. Stratton Closes the Store.
Did you miss a chapter? Click here for the previous chapter.
Click here for Chapter One.

Can’t wait to see what happens? Download the entire book at or!

Published by Maren Bradley Anderson
Copyright 2011 Maren Bradley Anderson

PRUDE ALERT: This book contains ADULT CONTENT. Enjoy!

All we have to do is idly sit indoors

With smooth roses powdered on our cheeks,

Our bodies burning naked through the folds
Of shining Amorgors’ silk, and meet the men

With our dear Venus plats plucked trim and neat.

Governor Bill Ostrem eased his flabby body down into an easy chair and groaned as his feet throbbed in relief after bearing his weight all day. He’d been pressing the flesh all night at a $2,000 a plate fundraising dinner. He hated those things because the food was always terrible and a tiny part of him was ashamed that he was too cheap hire caterer who would do a decent job.

He watched as his mistress, Honey, padded around the room in her short skirt and plunging neckline. He liked her better than most of the mistresses he’d had over the past twenty years. She was a treat to watch as she bounced atop him since her breasts, though large, were actually real. He’d popped in tonight unannounced, so she was “straightening up” the apartment.

“That’s enough,” he said gruffly as she passed by. “Come here.” He pulled her down and kissed her.
She smiled as she pulled away. “Oh, this place is still a mess, Billy,” she cooed. “Let me just pick up a little more.” She squirmed away and dropped to all fours to pick up some magazines on the floor, pert ass waving in the air. Bill cursed his fat when he realized that his dick would never reach her in that position.

Instead, he reached over and fondled her ass. “Come on, pet. That can wait. Papa can’t.”

Honey sat up on her knees and smiled at him. “Oh, but I’m so ashamed of the mess!” she said. She rolled up onto her feet and fetched a duster. She began dusting the bottom shelves of her bookcase by bending at the waist, not the knees.

“You little minx,” Governor Ostrem moaned. “You’re killing me. Come here!”

Honey moved toward him, but dropped the duster. She bent to pick it up, flashing him a grand view of her cleavage. She pivoted and sat primly on his knee, but repelled his hands gently.

“Bill,” she said sweetly. “I know you think I’m a bit dim...”

“Nonsense,” muttered Ostrem absently. He was inches away from her best parts.

“Could you please explain to me why we’re at war in the Middle East?”

“Later,” Bill had one hand up her shirt.

“Now,” she said, pulling his hand away. “Please?”

Bill looked up in Honey’s face and was mildly surprised that she had brown eyes. He’d thought they were green. “Uh,” he began. “It’s complicated. Can’t we do this later?”

“We could,” she said. “But this question will bother me so until it’s answered, I just don’t know if I can get into the mood.”

“Harumph. The Iranians made a land grab and we repelled them. Now we have to stabilize the region. Satisfied?” He lunged for her shirt again.

Honey parried. “No, not really. I thought I heard the TV say that the Iranians hadn’t invaded anyone, but we thought they might, so we invaded.”

“Mebbe,” Ostrem said. He tried kissing her neck, but Honey moved away.

“You mean we invade a country without provocation again?”

“Mebbe,” he muttered. “Please, Honey, can we just forget this for now?”

“Sure, Billie,” Honey cooed and cuddled up to him. “Just cause I know you’ll fix it once you’re President.”

“I’ll fix it,” he murmured into her hair.
“How?” Honey looked up at him with those...brown, yes, brown... eyes.

“Oh, I suppose we’ll stabilize the region and pull out eventually.”

“Eventually? Why not right away?”

“It’s complicated, Honey.” Bill snapped. “Lots of people, powerful people, rich people, don’t want the war to end right away!”

Honey hopped out of Bill’s lap. “Billie! You’re not making money off the war, are you?”
“Not as much as some,” he huffed. “Now come back here.”

Honey stood in front of him for a moment, and then said loftily, “Bill, I think you should leave now.”

“You’re kidding,” Bill said. His eyes grew wide. “You’re not kidding. Honey, you can’t do this to me!”

“Can’t I?” she said. “Just watch me!”

A few days later found Ostrem in Washington D.C. where he had a known penchant for strippers and masseurs. But when he’d gone looking for some entertainment the other night, he’d found that all the girls at his favorite place were sick with the flu. The next night he’d tried a different place, but those girls were sick, too. Tonight, in desperation, he’d called his state’s congressman for ideas.

“I’m having the same trouble you are, Bill,” Congressman Less Nausbaum said. “I’ve got three numbers and everyone is sick, or on vacation, or found religion. I’ve talked to Keller and Whiskerman and they’re out in the cold, too.”

“Do you mean that D.C. is fresh out of whores?” Ostrem said, astounded.

“It looks that way,” said Nausbaum. “You don’t suppose your lively little tart of an opponent is behind this, do you?”

“I don’t know,” growled Ostrem. “If she is, she’s going to pay.”


 All Jack Riddel wanted was his customary blowjob before he started his 12-hour shift at the factory. His wife, Amy, had been good for one every morning of their married life. Even though she wasn’t the prettiest girl he’d ever dated, her warm heart and willing tongue had won him over all those years ago.

But today, Amy was taking a long time in the bathroom. Jack sat on the bed with his pants folded beside him, waiting impatiently. He was going to be late for the bus. Finally, he called out to her.

“Amy? I’m going to be late!”

“One moment, dear!” The door of the bathroom opened and Amy stepped out, dressed in some sort of polyester uniform. She was putting in an earring and walked past him, even though he was naked from the waist down.

“Ahem,” Jack said. When Amy turned, he tilted his head and asked, “Aren’t you forgetting something?”

“I’m sorry, honey. I don’t have time today. I’m late, too.”

“Late? For what?”

“I’m late for my first day of work. Isn’t it too, too exciting? I’m the new day manager at the Burger Hut!”

“You don’t need to work. I make plenty of money. Now, please...”

“Of course you do, my darling,” Amy cooed and kissed the thin spot on his head. “I just have nothing to do now that Mark and Kyle are at college, and I wanted to save a little money for a cruise next summer. Won’t that be fun!”

“Still,” Jack said. “Don’t you have time for...uh, me?” Jack resorted to pointing at his stiff member.

“Not today, dear!” Amy called as she sailed out of the bedroom. A moment later, Jack heard the door slam behind her.

He was two minutes late for the bus and got an earful from his equally frustrated boss.

Liz was washing her hair in the sink when someone knocked on the door of her room. “Come in!” she shouted. She watched in the mirror as Zeke stepped in. “In here!” she called. “I’m almost done!”

Zeke closed the door and sat on the bed to wait. As he did, he allowed himself a little fantasy that he was sharing this room with Liz and that she was getting ready for a night out on the town with him. He knew exactly which dress she’d wear: the little strappy blue number she wore to the Daytime Emmys once. They’d dance, share some champagne and then end up back at the room for a game of twister, sans mat.

“I’m nearly ready,” Liz said as she came into the room wrapping her hair in a towel. She was in the hotel bathrobe and it killed Zeke to think that she was naked under there.

“You don’t look ready at all,” Zeke said crossing his legs nonchalantly.

“Pooh,” she said. “I just washed my hair. It’ll take five seconds to put in a ponytail. I just need to find my hair bands.” She bent at the waist and rummaged through her suitcase.

“Damn,” Zeke said to Liz’s heart-shaped ass.

Liz looked over her shoulder at him. “What?”

“Oh, television,” Zeke lied. “Uh, that CNN story was just, so...damn!”

Liz frowned at him and found her hair bands. “I don’t know why I keep that channel on. Everything that’s on it makes me angry.” She turned it off as she passed.

Zeke repositioned himself when she disappeared in the bathroom but denied himself the urge to peek in her suitcase just to see if any underwear was on top. Oh, she was killing him softly.

Liz appeared in a ponytail and trim pantsuit, looking as professional and polished as ever. “Let’s go have breakfast with rich people!” she cried and stepped out into the hallway. Zeke trotted at her heels like an ever-adoring shi tzu.

Shame could do really awful things to people. The first three times Zeke had asked Liz out, he was serious. He had fucked up the timing or the tone or the situation so badly, though, that Liz hadn’t taken him seriously, and now she never would. He kept asking her out because now it was just expected. They would laugh about it and then go on with their days. He could tell himself and his therapist that he had tried again (though the therapist saw through this), so he was off the hook. Liz always got an ego-boost when Zeke asked her out, though she’d never admit it. The days she didn’t see him and no one else asked her for a date, she felt a lot less confident.

Not that either of them would admit that they needed each other. Ever. To anyone.

Senator Oscar Beckinger was home in Indiana briefly from the campaign trail, and he was frustrated. He’d come home in a good mood because the campaign was going well. The Democratic party was behind him and the Ostrem, the Republican candidate, was a parody of himself, easy to ridicule. The campaign platform of helping the country by caring for the least fortunate was working like a charm. Compassionate Democrats were lining up to work on the campaign.

He found a little hole in the campaign schedule so he could go home and “recharge,” as he put it. He wanted to spend time with his wife and kids, he said. The boys would be glad enough to see him, but they were both in high school, so they were off with their friends most of the time. His wife Megan, was always loving and told him how much she missed him. She was still delicious, and he was all set to ravage her affectionately as soon as his suitcase hit the entryway.

Then, of course, he’d ring up his mistress and ravage her, too.

But Megan wasn’t at home when he got there. His dog Salvadore, a black pedigreed standard poodle, was ecstatic he was home, but it wasn’t the same. Salvador bounced around him happily, which lightened his spirits and gave him an idea. He’d call his mistress Rebecca. She was always happy to see him, too.

He picked up his cell phone, pushing away Salvador’s amorous advanced and dialed Rebecca’s number. The phone rang and rang and rang, but then clicked over to voicemail. “Hi!” it said. “This is Rebecca! Please leave me a message.”

“Rebecca, this is Ox. I’m at home. Please call my cell.”

Oscar hung up and flung the phone onto the bed in frustration. Now what was he going to do? He didn’t want to jerk off in case Megan or Rebecca came back soon. But he was antsy and grumpy.
Salvador jumped up on the bed, and Beckinger shouted at him. Damn dog probably hasn’t been outside all day, thought Beckinger. He’s going crazy all cooped up in here. We need to get out.
He changed into his running clothes and loaded Salvador into the hybrid SUV he’d bought “green up” his image, and drove to the dog park for the people who lived in his gated community. When he was home from sessions of Congress, he ran here with the dog all the time. It was safe enough that the Secret Servicemen could follow at a leisurely distance, as they did now.

Salvador was nearly mad with anticipation when they pulled into the parking lot. He spun tight little circles in the cargo area of the car and whimpered piteously. When Beckinger opened the door, the dog launched himself toward the gate of the park. “Don’t go running off, Sal,” Beckinger called after him, knowing it wouldn’t do any good.

As he approached the gate, a ragged man appeared before him.  Beckinger realized he wasn’t going to be able to avoid talking to him since the hobo had Salvador by the collar.

“This yer dog?” the man asked. “He’s mighty fancy.”

“Yes, he’s mine,” Beckinger said. He took Sal by the collar and shoved him into the dog park gate and tried to follow.

The homeless man stepped in front of him. “No ‘Thank you’?” he asked.

“Thank you,” Beckinger said and tried to push past him again.

The hobo stood his ground. “Can you spare a dollar, mister, since I caught yer dog?”

“I don’t have my wallet with me. I’m going for a jog,” Beckinger snarled. “Let me by or I’ll call the police.”

The homeless man backed away from Beckinger muttering an apology. Beckinger let himself in to the dog park, and whistled to Sal who ignored him gleefully. Beckinger had to chase Salvador down and clip on his leash before they could began jogging around the well-groomed park.

The homeless man went back to his own mixed-breed dog who had been waiting patiently for him by his pack. He patted the mutt affectionately and picked up his belongings and began to walk. The dog fell in beside his master without a leash, and the two marched on in search of their next meal.
Beckinger didn’t feel less frustrated after the jog, though he was more tired. Once Salvador was on the leash, he behaved well enough, as long as he was in front and they went where he wanted to go. Catching him was very challenging; the only reason Beckinger had been able to get him at all today was because there weren’t any other dogs at the park.

Salvador didn’t seem tired at all. He spun circles once they were in the driveway, and was out of the car like a bullet racing to the front door. The house was still empty, and no one had called. Beckinger turned on the television and then turned it off again. He lay down on the couch and closed his eyes. He hadn’t had a nap during the day in ages.

He woke to find Megan sitting at his feet on the end of the couch watching a talk show. He sat up, rubbing his eyes. “Hi honey,” he said, kissing her cheek. “Where were you?”

“I’ve been at a meeting,” she said vaguely. “I didn’t know you were coming home.”

“It’s just for the day. I’m off again tomorrow. I just wanted to see you,” he said, shifting so he could lay his head in her lap. “Where are the boys?”

“Practice until four, then they usually hang out with their buddies until six.”

“What time is it now?”


“So, we have time,” Beckinger grinned and slid his hands around his wife’s waist and buried his face in her belly.

“Oh, now, I couldn’t,” Megan said, pushing him away.

“Why not?” Beckinger whined. “I came home just to see you!”

“It’s that time of the month,” Megan lied.

“No it’s not,” Beckinger said. “It was that time last time I came home.”

“I have a headache.”

“I won’t touch your head. Please, honey?”

“Oscar, stop it. I don’t want to. Isn’t that enough?”

“Not really,” he said, sitting up and pouting. “I’d like a reason, please.”

“Well, there’s a war on...”

“The war’s been going on for years. So what?”

“Well, I’d sure like it to end.”

Beckinger blinked. “Oh, hell, Megan. You’re not doing that silly sex-strike thing, are you? Are you? Christ Almighty!” He stood and began pacing the room. “I don’t know what you silly women think you’re proving by doing this, but I’ve been horny for days—days!— and now my own wife is denying me even though all I’ve done is pine for you! My lovely! My wife!”

Megan looked at her hands for a moment, and then stood up. “Please don’t shout at me,” she said, eyes on the floor.

Beckinger stopped and looked at her. “What?”

“Don’t shout at me. Every time you’re unhappy with something, you pace and shout at me, and I’m tired of it.”

He squinted at her as if it would help him understand. “What?”

“You shout at me, you never call the boys when you’re in Washington, and you only come home when you’re horny. I’m sick of it, Oscar. So, I’m cutting you off.” She took a breath and met his eyes.
“You’re what? I can’t believe my ears. You’re what?”

“Cutting you off!” Megan’s adrenaline was ringing in her ears. The words spilled from her as if she had rehearsed them. “I do care about the world and the damage this war is causing, even if you fucking don’t. I don’t want our boys drafted into this stupid endeavor. You do realize that they’ll be eligible soon, don’t you? Don’t you? They’re your boys, your sons, for Chrissakes!”

“So, you’re actually following my opponent’s sex strike? Really, Megan? You’re betraying me this way?”

“Betrayal? Don’t talk to me about betrayal! You’re the one who voted to reinstate the draft, you fuckwit!” Megan screamed. “You aren’t sending my babies to a war and then having your way with me! No. Either this war ends or your dick shrivels up and falls off from disuse! And don’t think you’ll just go to that tart Rebecca, either. She and I are in complete agreement on this.”

“How...Rebecca? Rebecca, too?” Beckinger stammered. He staggered backward and collapsed into one of the stuffed armchairs. “How do you...know Rebecca?”

“You’re not so smart,” Megan said, sitting down and glancing away. “It’s not like she’s a secret.”
A moment passed when all Beckinger could do was blink, and all Megan could do was count the seconds until he exploded in his usual tirade. She prayed nothing she cared about got broken this time, but the seconds kept ticking and nothing happened. Finally, she ventured a peek up at him.
He was staring at her with a new look of, was that respect? It made her blush. “What?” she said.

“Jesus, you’re sexy when you’re mad.”

“Thanks, but that won’t work, either.”

“Damn. I do mean it.”

“Thanks,” Megan said. Then she stood up. “I’ll set up the guest room for you tonight. I’ll explain this to the boys if you’d rather not.”

“No, I’d better,” he said. “Don’t want them to get the wrong idea.” He watched her leave the room, admiring her motherly ass and wondering what had happened to bring back the spitfire he’d married. It wouldn’t be the first time he’d slept with the dog in the guestroom, but it was the first time he’d done so with an increase of desire for his wife.


Fifteen years ago, Jerry Albright was a rangy, bearded hippie in a power suit when Cal first saw him on the UMASS campus during an Activist Fair. He was running the Amazon Rainforest booth and was surrounded by long-haired, not-recently-showered  hippie kids who were doing their sophmoric duty by spouting rhetoric from their Bible, a book called So Few Trees, So Little Time. Jerry had written it while he was doing research in the jungle.

He stood self-consciously behind the pile of books as his late-teen disciples bombarded passersby with unanswerable questions:

“When are you going to stop supporting the rainforest’s destruction by eating meat?”
“How many trees have to die before you stop buying wood furniture?”

“Stop wasting paper!” a hippie chick hollered at Cal, as she shoved a leaflet into Cal’s hands. Hundreds of leaflets were strewn on the ground in front of the booth. Cal found this extremely funny and stood for a moment giggling.

“Yeah,” Jerry said from behind the wall of books. “That one gets me, too.
Cal looked up into his clear brown eyes and giggled again, shaking her head. “Talk about no self-awareness!”

She felt both very mature and a little self-conscious saying this since she was only a little older than the chickie. To cover up her awkwardness, she thrust out her hand.

“Calliope Talmadge. I’m running the WAP booth.” She pointed to the far corner where the WAP banner was visible next to a PETA display. “I needed to take a walk to get away from the tortured bunny pictures.”

“Jerry Albright,” he said, shaking her hand. “I totally understand. I don’t have the stomach for that, either.”

Cal fingered one of the books and glanced at the small table display. She said “Oh!” when she saw his picture on the poster. “You’re that Jerry Albright!”

He smiled. “That makes me sound like a celebrity or something.”

Cal smiled, too. “In some places, you are. I read this book last year. It was required reading for WAP interns.”

“Really? Why?”

“You outline techniques for getting attention—media attention. They work for most issues, I think.”
“So, you’re not at all concerned about rainforests?” Jerry sounded disappointed.

“Oh, no. I mean, yes. It’s on my top ten list after reproductive rights and shattering the glass ceiling.”
“I like people who fight for causes,” he said. “People who care passionately. I think those are the best kind of people, Calliope.”

Cal looked up at him and found that the note of interest she heard in his voice was reflected in his eyes, as well.

“Me, too!” she said once she realized she had been staring. “I like passionate people, too, Jerry.”
After a first date at a Vegan restaurant that ended with them skinny-dipping in a lake in a city park, Cal knew she was in love. Jerry was about five years older than she was; Cal was still in graduate school when they met. He lobbied hard for her to quit (“What does one do with a Ph.D. in Women’s Studies anyway?” he’d ask) and follow him to Brazil on his long research trips. Even though it had been difficult to maintain the relationship over those years, Cal was later very, very glad that she had stuck to her guns and finished school.

He proposed to her on the one trip to Brazil she made before they were married, bending on one knee under an enormous tree in an endangered forest. She panicked when a little snake bit Jerry’s calf as he slipped the ring on her finger, but their guide said that it wasn’t poisonous, after he had wrung its neck.

A month after Cal graduated, they were married barefoot on a beach in Maine—a spot they found when Jerry was home from the jungle and Cal was between projects for WAP. The ceremony had a shaman instead of a minister and the invitations were printed on hemp paper. Liz thought that the whole thing was out of character for Cal, but Cal was in L-O-V-E, so Liz kept her mouth shut.
Later, Cal was embarrassed to admit that they only actually lived together as man and wife for 11 months, tops. For rest of their three years of legal commitment, Jerry was in some part of Amazonia, and Cal was fighting the right-to-lifers or corporate America somewhere in the States.

They parted ways when Jerry found a nubile Brazilian who also liked passionate people. Cal didn’t really blame him for wanting a partner who was not only passionate about him, but was passionate about his chosen cause. However, she was angry with him for telling her of the affair via email and his filing for divorce from Brazil. She hadn’t figured him for a coward, but there was the proof.

Liz and Cal took a week’s vacation together when the divorce was final. They put a boxes of Jerry’s things in a van and drove from L.A. to Yellowstone and back. They left piles of books and records and clothes at any charity shop they passed. On the way back, they left piles of things in front of the bathrooms at the rest stops. Cal returned to her half-empty apartment feeling cleansed.

She was dismayed, but not surprised, to see Jerry’s name on the list of people working for the Democratic campaign stop scheduled just after the WAP rally at the Nevada State Fair. She’d expected more Green Party work from him, but she wondered if he were actually radical enough for them.

Every time she walked into a building where the Democrats were holding a rally, especially an environmental rally, Cal held her breath and prayed that Jerry wasn’t there. Now who’s the coward? Cal berated herself. She was ashamed that she hadn’t spoken to her ex for eight years; she didn’t want to confront his crushing rejection in person. Plus, his new wife might be with him, and Cal was terrified that she’d be pretty, and twenty-five, and possibly admirable in other ways. Cal was torn between hoping she was an ugly hag and hoping that she was “better” than Cal in some ways so she could understand why Jerry left.

Cal hated herself for still having these feelings all these years later. She practically spat on the ground whenever Jerry’s name came up in conversation, and she hated being the bitter ex who couldn’t move on.

Still, when she saw him standing in the crowd at the Ohio State Fair, waiting to listen to Liz speak, Cal nearly swallowed her tongue. The woman standing with him was not his new, young wife—she was in her fifties and was consulting a clipboard. Plus, Jerry was openly enjoying watching the women in the crowd. He was never so crass as to do that in his wife’s presence.

He looked good, although age had thickened his middle and thinned his top. His eyes still twinkled, but she could picture him in ten years with a paunch and long hair, balding on top, with streaks of grey in his beard. That look might be ridiculous on some, but Cal suspected that Jerry would be able to pull it off as somehow dignified and rebellious at the same time, just like when he wore that suit with his hippie beard to seem more like an “author” and less like a radical who couldn’t sell books.
Her blood froze when his eyes found her, and he smiled and walked directly toward her. Cal’s first instinct was to flee, but realistically, what would that get her? She gulped and willed herself to smile at him as he approached.

“Calliope! Fancy meeting you here!” Jerry said, pulling her into a bear hug.

“Mph,” Cal said, somewhat grateful that she could have this moment to pull herself together. She was disappointed when his familiar scent caused her knees to jellify.

Jerry held her out at arm’s length. “You look good enough to eat!” he declared. “How have you been?”

“I’m really good,” Cal managed to say.

“I’ll say! I’d love to know how you convinced Liz of all people to run for President! If I remember correctly, in college you couldn’t get that girl to run for Dorm President.”

Cal smiled at the memory. “Well, honestly, I ambushed her.”

“I heard,” Jerry said. He looked at her again appraisingly. “I meant it when I said that you look great.”
Cal was mad at herself for dropping her gaze. “Thank you,” she managed to say. “It’s nice to see you, too. Where’s your wife?”

Jerry rolled his eyes. “Brazil,” he said. “That’s where she always is. She’s come to the States to visit my family once. I can’t get her out of that country. It’s like we’re only married when I’m down there. I’ve got a life up here, too!”

Cal managed to turn her ironic grin into something that resembled a sympathetic moue. “That’s too bad,” she said. “Long-distance relationships are difficult.”

“Too true,” he agreed. He looked her in the eye. “So, would you be up for drinks later?”

Cal’s eyebrows shot up in surprise. “Really? Why?” She didn’t mean to sound so incredulous.

Jerry scuffed the dirt with his shoe. “I don’t know. Re-live old times? Be adults and keep each other company for a while?” He glanced up at her hopefully, a method she recognized from when they were married.

“I’ll have to get back to you on that,” she said. “The campaign has absorbed every second of my time, and promises to for the next several months. You understand,” she finished.

“Oh, yeah, I understand,” he said. He fished out a business card and jotted a number on it before handing it to her. “My cell,” he explained. “Just give me a call when you want to get together,” he said. He stepped up to her and gave her a kiss on the cheek. “I’ve missed you,” he whispered, warm whiskers tickling her ear. Then he turned and walked back into the crowd.

Liz came up behind Cal once Jerry dissolved into the audience. “Was that as weird as it looked?” she asked.

“Yes,” Cal said.

Liz took the business card from Cal, tore it in half, and handed one part back to Cal. “I’ll keep this,” she said. “If you really, really want it back, ask me for it, and I’ll spend the next hour reminding you of all the crap he put you through. Then maybe I’ll give you the other half.”

“Sure,” Cal said, too stunned to protest or thank Liz. “I’m going to go sit in the bus, okay?”

“Good idea. We have everything under control here,” Liz said.

The bus was dark and quiet, exactly what Cal wanted. She turned the half-card over and over in her hands. One side had words like “environmental consultant” and “Jerry” on it. The other side had an area code and a “4” written in black ink in Jerry’s surprisingly precise hand. She knew that Liz’s trick of tearing the card in half was only a symbolic gesture: five minutes on the Internet and Cal could find Jerry’s contact information. That wasn’t the point, though. The point was that she shouldn’t.
Cal dropped the scrap of cardstock onto the table and sat back to stare at the ceiling of the bus. She peered into the dark corners of herself and asked, “How do you feel, Calliope Talmadge? How do you feel about Jerry Albright?”

Ugh. It was dank and cobwebby in the corner of her heart where she stored the pain Jerry caused. She opened up that box and stared into it hard. She found hard little bits of anger and bitterness, dried up like currants. There were the little pips of the desperation she felt when she wanted him to love her again so badly. There were even the dried-up peels of her love for him. But nothing juicy or fragrant or viable still lived there. She had moved on, after all.

But she still wouldn’t have a drink with him. She shredded her half of a card and sprinkled the pieces in the bus’s commode and flushed it with ceremony. That was the end of that.


Go to Maren’s author page at to download my other stories to your e-reader.
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About the Author
Maren Bradley Anderson is a writer, teacher, podcaster, blogger, and alpaca rancher who lives in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. She has written short stories and plays for years, and has recently taken to writing screenplays and novels. She teaches live and online classes on literature and writing at Western Oregon University. She has Master’s Degrees in both Literature and Teaching Writing from Humboldt State University and a B.A. in English and Studio Art from Mount Holyoke College. Maren hosts a podcast about alpacas (Paca Talk) with her husband, and blogs about alpacas and writing. Her alpacas win ribbons for conformation and fleece, plus she thinks they are darned cute. 
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Friday, September 16, 2011

Liz A. Stratton Closes the Store: Chapter Four

Liz A. Stratton Closes the Store:
Chapter Four
Maren Bradley Anderson

This is the fourth chapter of Liz A. Stratton Closes the Store.
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Click here for Chapter One.

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Published by Maren Bradley Anderson
Copyright 2011 Maren Bradley Anderson

PRUDE ALERT: This book contains ADULT CONTENT. Enjoy!


 Cal shook Liz awake at 7 a.m. “Dearie, I’ve let you sleep as long as I dare. You’ve got to see this!” Cal held a newspaper by the masthead in front of Liz’s unfocused eyes.
Even without her glasses, Liz could read the headline. “LIZ STRATTON CLOSES THE STORE!” it exclaimed in gigantic capital letters.
“Oh, God,” moaned Liz and tried to roll face-down in her pillows.
“That won’t do,” said Cal, pulling her back. “Here, have a mocha. Chocolate will do you good.” She thrust the hot paper cup into Liz’s unwilling hands.
Liz sighed and took a swig of the chocolaty goodness. “I still don’t feel up to this,” she said. She put her glasses on anyway. “Gimme,” she said and read the article on the front page.
It read, in part:
"Ms. Elizabeth A. Stratton, Presidential candidate for the Womyn’s Achievement Party, called for women in America and Mesopotamianstan to give up sex until the war is over during the first Presidential Debate last night. The call to “close the store” seemed to be in response to condescending and patronizing remarks made by the Democratic and Republican candidates, Oscar Beckinger and Bill Ostrem respectively, during a question about ending the war."
Liz skipped the painful recap of what she said, and scanned ahead in the article.
There have been unofficial anecdotal reports of women actually denying their husbands access coming from many parts of the country. A quick survey of staff at the newspaper implies that the idea of a sex strike may have more staying power than most pundits may think.
Liz put the paper down and looked at the grinning Cal. “I don’t believe it,” she said. “Am I reading this right?”
“Yes!” Cal was giddy. “It’s a positive review! Plus, it looks like women might actually do it!”
“Or not do it, as the case may be,” said Zeke as he stepped into the room. He noticed with disappointment that Liz slept in full-length pajamas, but he could still see her cute little toes. “You know, this hasn’t won you any friends in the male camp,” he said, sitting in a chair.
“Oh, pooh,” said Cal. “What man would vote for a WAP candidate, anyway? And like I said last night, winning isn’t everything. In fact, we probably shouldn’t be trying to win at all.”
“Why’s that?” asked Liz.
“If we try to win, we need to make as many people happy as possible. If we just attack this one issue like a tenacious pit-bull, we could end the war without having to appease the majority.”
Liz sat silently for a moment and then reached for the yellow pad that still lay on her bed. She flipped through her increasingly incoherent notes until she found the page she was looking for.
“I think we might be able to do both,” she said.
“Both?” said Zeke.
“Yes. Both. I’ve got a list here of, well, basically everyone I know with connections. And their wives.”
Even Zeke had to smile at the idea. “That’s kind of a cruel thing to do to your friends, isn’t it?”
“The girls will understand, and the boys will understand when their sons come home from the war,” Liz said. She lifted her cell phone from the bedside table and scrolled through the numbers.
“Who are you calling first?” asked Cal.
Liz grinned and held the phone up so they could read the name. Zeke’s jaw dropped and Cal began to giggle. “Hello, Liz,” said the voice on the phone in a slow drawl. “I was expecting you to call, just not quite so soon.”
The sex-strike phone tree quickly spread support for the idea among many of the wives of the most influential people in the country. Ginny Ostrem, the dear Governor’s wife, was instrumental in launching the operation. Liz had met her at a fundraiser for a women’s shelter and they had bonded lightly over stories of various cats they’d each had. They had traded cards and worked together peripherally on shelters for both humans and animals. They had not crossed paths since then, but Liz had read the accounts of the Governor’s affairs for years, and guessed that Ginny might be a willing participant.
In fact, Ginny was more than willing, and she said she was pretty sure she could “convince” Bill’s current mistress to jump on the bandwagon as well. If Ginny had concerns that Liz might threaten her chance at being First Lady, she overlooked them and sent Liz an email bursting with the contact information for the wives of members of Congress south of the Mason Dixon. Cal made a note to send Ginny the deluxe WAP gift pack.
Liz’s other sources were just as fruitful, and soon they had the unofficial support of women attached to other governors, Senators and even more local officials. By early afternoon, the WAP headquarters were awash with phone calls offering support from women from all walks of life.
By evening, it was certain that the newspaper reporter had been right: this idea had legs that could carry it. The question was, how far?
Liz had to admit, it was fun watching the news that night. The male anchors seemed distinctly uncomfortable on the topic of the sex strike, but the anchorwomen could barely contain themselves. Even Katie Curic couldn’t keep a smirk from curling her cute little mouth as she described unofficial reports of groups of congressmen’s wives suddenly going on week-long spa vacations together. 
Liz and her staff toasted themselves with champagne in the hotel lounge that evening. As the wine flowed, the songs got louder and the jokes cruder. Zeke was the only man in the group, and he was returning the light flirting of a intern when a group of men drunkenly approached them with mean swaggers.
“You’re that bitch from the debate last night,” said the leader. He was a tall, good-looking man in a rumpled dark suit, tie askance. Liz smiled sweetly at him and stuck out her hand.
“Liz Stratton, candidate for President,” she said.
The man swatted her hand away. “You bitch,” he repeated, leaning a little to the right. “You know my wife called me tonight to say that she’s going to visit her mother?”
“How would I know that?” Liz asked, her head muddled with bubbly wine.
“My wife won’t be there when I get home!” he said threateningly. “I can’t fuck her if she’s not at home, bitch.” He leaned in too far and had to catch himself on a chair. Somehow this didn’t diminish his menace.
It dawned on Liz that she might not be very safe, but she felt her staff close ranks around her. Still, no point in provoking anyone.
“I’m sorry your wife needs to see her mother...” Liz began, but another man in the group interrupted her.
“My wife is going to see her sister,” he growled.
“My girlfriend said she wanted some ‘space,’” said a third.
“Well, I’m sorry about that,” Liz began again. She saw the bartender on the phone and prayed he was calling security.
“We were thinking,” the first man said, a leaning tower of hate. “We were thinking that you’re a girl. And you’ve got lots of girl friends here. And since you all caused this mess, maybe you should finish it.”
Zeke suddenly pushed his way between Liz and the drunk. “Mister, I don’t think I like what you’re implying to my lady friend here,” he said, thrusting his chest out like a bantam rooster. “I think you should be on your way before things get out of hand.” Zeke, though a full foot shorter than his adversary, exuded “Do you feel lucky, punk?” juice through every pore. Liz was impressed. She didn’t know he had it in him.
The evil drunk swayed left, then right, and looked at Zeke with surprise. Then he vomited on his own shoes. His friends dragged him away. At the door of the lounge, the drunk managed to turn back and shout, “Bitch! You owe me a fucking...fuck!”
Once the men were out of sight, Liz sat down hard and started shaking. The room spun and she panted as the situation sunk in. Zeke put a protective arm around her.
Three security guards appeared at the bar and spoke to the bartender. Two quickly left to find the drunks while the third stayed to get a report from them all. Cal gave him the full details.
“If we catch these guys, do you want to press charges, ma’am?” he asked finally.
Liz looked up. “Press charges? Maybe. We’ll have to think about it.”
“Think about it?” Cal was shrill with indignation. “Those men are dangerous! How could we let them get away with this?”
“If we don’t press charges, the media doesn’t have to know,” Liz said. “I’d like to keep control of the issue, Cal. Besides, no one was hurt. Maybe they are just harmless assholes.”
“I”ll write down ‘maybe,’” said the guard. “We’ll at least tell the police that the hotel wants to press charges for disorderly or drunken conduct.”
“That’s fine,” said Zeke. “Just keep the campaign out of it for now, please.”
Liz rested her head on Zeke’s shoulder, grateful for his presence in a way she hadn’t been before.
The next morning, the FBI finally gave Liz the same security detail that they afforded to the “major party” candidates.
Liz stood backstage of the first rally since the debate, and she was nervous. The drunk men at the hotel lounge had really shaken her. Those men hadn’t been denied anything they had been expecting, not even for a day. But they were so angry. Liz tried not to think about the kinds of things that might have happened had Zeke not acted or if the aggressors hadn’t been so very wasted.
The crowd gathered in front of the stage was predominantly women, as was normal for a WAP event, but they seemed a bit more varied than before. A few more “regular” girls were in attendance in addition to the normal crowd of crew-cut women’s libbers and 1970’s era bra-burners. There as a anticipatory buzz that might have made Liz excited. Today it made her jumpy.
“Stop being so nervous,” Cal said, walking up behind her. “This is YOUR crowd. They LIKE you. They’re going to hang on your every word. You know that choir people preach to? Well, that crowd is about to sing out ‘halleluia!’”
“You’re right. I know you’re right,” said Liz. “Friday night still has me rattled.”
“I know,” Cal said. “But look over there.” She gestured to the far corners of the crowd. Liz could just make out men in dark glasses. Cal pointed out the others in the FBI security detail behind the stage.
“They kind of stick out in this crowd, don’t you think?” Liz asked.
“They’re supposed to be obvious, but not alarming,” said Zeke. “You’re safe, though. That’s the point.”
“Ok,” Liz said with a deep breath. “Showtime.”
When she stepped onto the stage and began waving, the crowd cheered. By the time she arrived at the podium, the cheering had dissolved into a chant. “Close the Store! No more war! Close the store!”
As she waited for them to calm down, her eyes scanned the crowd, looking for faces to talk to during the speech. She found the sunglass-ed face of one of her FBI agents standing close to the stage. She had shaken all of their hands when they arrived Saturday morning, but she had not slept that night and had a hangover to boot, so even though she recognized him, she didn’t remember his name. She didn’t him as so handsome, either.
He gave her the slightest of smiles and a wink.
Liz didn’t have time to try to interpret this as the crowd quieted and waited for her to speak.
“Kind supporters,” Liz began. “This is, indeed, a new day. For millennia, women have taken a back seat in shaping world politics. But that “backseat,” shall we say, has been a place of influence for women everywhere.” The audience tittered appreciatively. “Acknowledging the fact that pillow-talk has shaped policy since the beginning of time, we are willing to undertake a coordinated effort for one purpose: the end of this stupid war and the resulting draft that has torn our families apart!” Liz waited for the clapping to subside. “In order to end this fruitless war, we need women everywhere to give up the one thing we hold more dear than anything except our children. Intimacy. Women are creatures of intimacy. We create strong, intimate bonds with other women, we have those bonds with our children and, yes, with our lovers. To give up the intimacy with our loved ones is very painful for us, so to give up sex is also very painful for us. We live for that intimacy.
“However, the greatest sacrifices for the greatest causes are painful, but worth it. By giving up the intimacy with a lover, we might bring back the son or father and re-kindle those bonds anew.
“But why sex? Why must we give up this particular joy? Well, it’s because of the male. He lives to fight and fuck. No, no, really, that’s what men are programmed to do, and we forgive them just like they forgive us for being programmed to wear shoes that match our purses and to turn off the television during dinner.
“The American male is highly competitive and wants to win. They have the mistaken idea that if we decide not to fight in Mesopotamianstan, that we will lose, and that is anathema to the American male, especially the ones in politics.
“The answer is in their dicks. No, really, it is. The one thing men like better than winning is fucking. They would rather fuck than anything. Try this: make a man a steak dinner and as you serve it, offer to fuck him on the kitchen floor that instant. The dog might steal the steak, but the man will be happy.
“So, ladies and other audience members, remember this: leverage. No fucking until there is peace. We might love being intimate, but we have the resolve to win this stand off. Use the time to pick up a new hobby...knitting perhaps? Sharp needles in bed to make your point? Or go on vacation with your girlfriends. Or, better yet, your mother. I’m sure she misses you.”
When the cheering died down, it was time for questions. Liz watched as a thin girl approached the microphone. She held herself carefully and spoke softly. “Ms. Stratton, what if, what if he’s...stronger than you?”
Liz felt her blood boil. “I don’t want anyone to get hurt because of this,” she said firmly. “But, my friend, I think you have been hurt before, haven’t you? No, don’t answer, there are cameras. Anna! Get over there and help her.” The crowd closed in around the woman protectively as she began to cry. A few WAP staffers made it to her and lead her away to talk to one of the campaigners who specialized in abuse.
“Let me repeat, ladies. I don’t want anyone to get hurt here. I don’t want a litany of martyrs in my wake. But you can always call the WAP campaign and be put in touch with people who can help you. This kind of abuse is the kind of thing that I will fight against if I am elected!”
The cheering subsided when another woman approached the microphone set up in the crowd. “Ms. Stratton, I have to be frank,” she said. “I like sex. I mean, I really, really like sex. I’m not sure I can give it up.”
Liz smiled. “I know what you mean.” Her eyes flitted to the FBI agent standing in the front row. He grinned at her, and she tore her gaze back up to the questioner. “We had a show on Spare Me! about that very topic. You know, some people might say things about me, like how I’ve been single for so long that I don’t remember what it’s like to have sex. Well, it hasn’t been THAT long,” Liz laughed. “But it isn’t by choice, and I certainly wouldn’t ask any of you to do something that I couldn’t do myself. In case you were wondering, every person on my staff has sworn off sex until the war is over!”
The next speaker was a man...a flamboyant gay man. He leaned in close to the mike and said, “But Liz, honey, are you ‘master of your domain’?” The crowd laughed at the old television reference.
Liz grinned. “Well, I never said THAT.” Wild cheers and applause. “I mean, it’s a sex strike, not a pleasure strike, lovey.”

Go to Maren’s author page at to download my other stories to your e-reader. 
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About the Author
Maren Bradley Anderson is a writer, teacher, podcaster, blogger, and alpaca rancher who lives in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. She has written short stories and plays for years, and has recently taken to writing screenplays and novels. She teaches live and online classes on literature and writing at Western Oregon University. She has Master’s Degrees in both Literature and Teaching Writing from Humboldt State University and a B.A. in English and Studio Art from Mount Holyoke College. Maren hosts a podcast about alpacas (Paca Talk) with her husband, and blogs about alpacas and writing. Her alpacas win ribbons for conformation and fleece, plus she thinks they are darned cute. 
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Saturday, September 10, 2011

Liz A. Stratton Closes the Store: Chapter Three

Liz A. Stratton Closes the Store:
Chapter Three
Maren Bradley Anderson

This is the third chapter of Liz A. Stratton Closes the Store.
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Published by Maren Bradley Anderson
Copyright 2011 Maren Bradley Anderson

PRUDE ALERT: This book contains ADULT CONTENT. Enjoy!


Liz tried to keep from shaking from nerves. She stood on the stage with the other candidates waiting for the “show” to start. The debate was about to begin.

She had spent the month week stumping all across the country during the day and cramming for the debate at night. She didn’t expect to win the election, but she would be damned before she looked like and idiot on national television.

There was so much to learn! She had had plenty of guests on Spare Me! who talked about the economy and the military and so on, and she had done her prep work for them. She’d read the books, the briefings, and the research from her team. But she’d been the one asking the questions! It was much different being on the other side.

She allowed herself a stack of ten index cards to help her remember the talking points and facts that she, Zeke, Cal and the various advisors had constructed as the platform for the WAP party. The rest of it was in her head, she hoped. She cleaned her glasses again to hide her restless hands.

Her opponents were chatting with each other amiably. As senators and governors of middle-of-the-road states, they had all met before at one time or another. Liz had never interviewed any of them, nor had she met them at any other events. One detached himself from the group, ambled over to her, and thrust out his hand.

“Ms. Stratton? I’m Oscar Beckinger, Senator from Indiana. I’m the Democratic Party candidate.” He was tall and handsome and 40-ish. His impish charm reminded Liz of every successful politician she’d met.

“I know who you are,” said Liz shaking his hand and smiling.

“This is quite a set-up, don’t you think?” Senator Beckinger said conversationally. “There’s a few more people on stage than I expected.”

Liz nodded. “I certainly didn’t expect to be here,” she said. “The WAP and Green Party candidates don’t usually get invited to national debates.”

The Senator rocked back on his heels, hands in pockets, and smiled. “It’s a sign of the changing times,” he said.

“Could be,” Liz said, smiling back. She tried to remember if the good Senator were married and blushed when she realized she was doing it. She pretended she didn’t notice her rising color, and the Senator had the good taste to pretend he didn’t notice, either. But he did.

The lights on the cameras blinked and the audience began applauding. Patriotic music swelled and a disembodied voice announced the opening of the show. Senator Beckinger smiled in farewell and ambled back to his podium. Liz realized she had been holding her breath and tried to regain her composure before she was introdu...

“Ms. Elizabeth Stratton, talk show host from Los Angeles, California!” the announcer shouted. Liz smiled cheerily and waved to the polite applause.

“Senator Oscar Beckinger!” Liz let out the rest of her breath and dabbed her forehead. She looked up just as Oscar winked at her. She willed herself not to blush again as the other candidates were introduced. Then Liz focused all her energy on answering the questions.

The moderator, Robert McNally, was an old friend whom she had met early in her career at a journalists’ party when she first got to LA. He was a venerable warhorse, and he wouldn’t pull his punches for her, but she could tell from his smile that he was pleased she was there.

“Welcome to the first nationally televised debate of the election season featuring not only the Democratic and Republican parties, but also candidates from the WAP and Green Parties!” Robert announced to applause. Liz felt a little chill run between her shoulder blades.

The first questions were warm-ups. First, Robert asked them to give a brief statement on how they would improve the economy.

“We need to eliminate the glass ceilings of this country either by legislation, or regulation, or cultural revolution. Frankly, I think the last option would be ideal, but I’m not opposed to the first two. If women and minorities can compete with everyone else on equal footing, productivity will increase, as will consumer spending,” Liz said when it was her turn. The audience applauded politely, and the next candidate ignored her comment completely.

Next was the obligatory question about alternative energy solutions. Jack McNerny, the Green Party Candidate went on a while about all of his party’s ideas about alternative energy. When it was finally Liz’s turn, she said, “The less petroleum this country uses, the better, given that we cannot seem to produce enough to fulfill our needs, and most of us are unwilling to continue this war to fuel our SUVs. I think women especially are willing to try alternatives that will ultimately save their households money like solar power and wind turbines, as well as fuel-cell and electric cars. Funding this kind of research is vital.”

Liz was feeling pretty good about herself at the midway break. She sipped some water and smiled at the commentator. So far the debate had been friendly enough, although all the candidates’ answers were predictably similar.

The music swelled again, and Liz put her water bottle away. Robert looked up into his camera and said, “And now we’ll turn our attention to the war in Mesopotamianstan. Candidates, the question we put to you is how will you end the war?”

Liz was ready for this one, but she wasn’t prepared for Robert to look at her and say, “Ms. Stratton, you may go first.”


She smiled at him and reminded herself to rib him about this later. “Of course, Mr. McNally.” Liz looked into her camera and thought to herself, I am ready. “This war must end. Now. The drain on our national resources has been obscene. The drain on our populace has been devastating. A whole generation of young men and women have been sent on this fool’s errand so a very few people can become immensely wealthy. Reinstating the Draft has ripped apart families already under the strain of the bad economy and mortgage crunch. This needs to stop.

“Ending the war will take aggressive negotiations with the warring parties in Mesopotamianstan, and as President, I’ll personally spearhead those talks so that we can get our people home and focus on repairing our own country, not someone else’s. Thank you.” She heard her supporters’ heartfelt applause in the back of the auditorium over the more polite clapping.

Robert grinned at her and turned to the next candidate. “Senator Beckinger?”

Oscar Beckinger rocked back on his heels and smiled warmly at the moderator. “Robert,” he said. “I know that the WAP party candidate has her heart in the right place...”

Liz’s face froze and a chilly knot seized up in her gut. Oh, no, she thought. Please don’t let the handsome man patronize me.

“...but,” he continued. “I don’t think hosting a talk show has prepared her for holding talks between the Iranians and the Mesopotamian separatists.” To Liz’s horror, there was a general chuckle from the audience. “I mean,” the Senator continued, smiling. “Can segments on celebrities and novelists be any sort of preparation for negotiating with terrorists?” Another chuckle of approval.

Liz felt the color draining from her face as Beckinger went on to babble about not negotiating with terrorists and measured response. Suddenly, she wasn’t in a packed auditorium full of members of the press and privileged audience members, she was in her seventh grade science class with her old nemesis, Mr. Tory, standing in front of her with a mean grin slashed across his face.

“Sat that word again,” he said.

“I can’t,” Liz had said, blushing.

“Do it.”


“An-nem-o-ne,” he said, a look of triumph on his thin face. He had finally found one thing Liz couldn’t do. She might ace every test he gave her, but she couldn’t pronounce the name of a soft-bodied sea creature. That was not the first time Liz had seen red, but it was the first time it had landed her in the principal’s office. Throwing the book at Mr. Tory had felt good, though.
Robert McNalley turned to the Republican candidate. “Governor Ostrem?”

Bill Ostrem shook his jowls in mirth as he chuckled to himself. “Mr. McNally!” shouted the Governor of Georgia. “I am also not one to negotiate with terrorists, nor interview novelists!” The audience was now warmed up and laughed outright at this pathetic joke. “In fact,” the Governor went on. “I’d venture to say that I’m in a unique position to help Ms. Stratton learn how to negotiate a lot of things...”

“That’s it!” Liz shouted. Her head pounded and the world had a distinctive scarlet cast. She was so angry that she didn’t know what to say, so she just started talking. Or shouting. Whatever.

“Ostrem, you sack of shit. You are in a unique position to kiss my ass, and the asses of taxpayers. You own fucking Nortramal! That company beat out Haliburton for the school building contract in the Middle East! There aren’t any schools there yet, and it’s been five years! We all know that you’re neck deep in this war because you’re making so much money that you can’t afford for it to end. How would you keep your mistress in new furs if it did?”

“Ms. Stratton, will you wait your turn?” Robert McNally was trying to regain order, but Liz ignored him.

“And Beckinger? You voted to reinstate the draft. Why did you do that? You have two sons! Could it be because you have ties with the industrial military companies that make their livings making body armor and tanks and gas masks?”

“Liz, please,” Robert McNally was standing, pleading with his eyebrows.

“Robert, I’m sorry, but these two patronizing assholes have no business running for President. They are up to their armpits in dirty money, direct profiteering from this sticky, smelly mess of a war. They have no intention of ending it because they are making too much money and they have no moral fiber at all.” The Green Party candidate started clapping, but Liz shot him a withering look that made him stop.

“Well, what do you propose?” sneered Ostrem. “Negotiating with the terrorists? That’ll work.”

Liz glared at him, but he did not cow like the McNerny. “Fine,” she said. “You want a stronger tactic? You want a tactic that will work? You want a strategy that will guarantee an end to the war, no matter which of us takes office in January?”

“I’d love to hear it,” said Ostrem.

“I spoke to a barracks full of women near an army base who said that they’d sacrifice anything to end the war. Absolutely anything. At the time, I couldn’t think of anything they could give up that would change things, nothing that would convince the powers that be that the population was serious about ending the war. But I now know what needs to be sacrificed to end the war.”

“What’s that?” asked Beckinger smugly. “Television? Eating out? Driving to work?”

“Sex,” said Liz.

The room was suddenly quiet. Then someone tittered. Then the whole room roared in laugher. Liz waited until they quieted down, working out in her head how this spur of the moment plan would work. Finally, Robert McNally, wiping a mirthful tear from his eye said, “Ms. Stratton, would you mind explaining how giving up sex will end the war in Mesopotamianstan?”

“I’d be delighted, Robert,” Liz said sweetly. “Firstly, let’s review something. What do men love? Fighting and sex and maybe a sport or two, in that order, I believe. If you take one of those things away, the man becomes unbalanced. I think that given a choice between sex and fighting, men will choose sex. It’s that simple.”

Robert McNally blinked at her. “You’re serious,” he said. “You’re seriously suggesting that women start a sex strike to blackmail men into ending this war.”

“Blackmail is such an ugly word, Robert,” Liz said.

Senator Beckinger was chuckling. “Well, it wouldn’t work, you know,” he said. “I mean, my wife likes our, um, recreation. Certainly too much to give it up for the war.”

“Oh? You’re willing to bet on that?” asked Liz. “She’s never ‘closed the store,’ so to speak, to get something she wants?”

The Senator looked uncomfortable. “That’s a little personal, don’t you think?”

“Ha-ha! That’s your answer!” laughed Governor Ostrem. “You pussy-whipped bastard!”

“Oh, Governor. It’s not like you’ve ever passed legislation to help out one of your mistresses, especially the one who dabbles in speculative real estate?” Liz had to remember to send her research department to Hawaii as a thank-you present.

“Robert,” she said, turning back to the moderator. “I am saying that if each woman in this country got a headache every night, if she were on the rag for weeks on end, if she suddenly needed to see her sick mother for a month, if she closed the store to her husband, those men would very much want to know how to open it again. And if the same thing happened in Mesopotamianstan, this war would be over in the matter of weeks—if not in A week.”

The cheering that rose from the crowd had a perceptively higher pitch than earlier in the evening as only the women were applauding. The men in the room and in the television audience had a sickening feeling of dread as, just for an instant, they considered what it would be like if, indeed, every woman in America decided to ignore them. Then they tried to laugh it off, but checked their stashes of porn once they got home, just in case.


When Liz stepped off stage, Zeke was waiting for her and fell into step beside her. His brow was so furrowed his eyebrows hit his glasses and pushed them down his nose.

“Liz,” he said, shoving up the black frames. “A sex strike, Liz? Really?”

“It just sort of slipped out,” Liz said.

Before Zeke could respond, Cal burst in from the green room where she’d been watching. “Liz!” she cried when she saw them, and ran over. Liz braced herself.

Cal flung her arms around Liz and laughed. “A sex strike, Liz? Brilliant! This is gold!” Liz and Zeke looked at her in disbelief.

“You can’t be serious,” Zeke said, closing the dressing room door behind them. “There’s no way this idea can help a serious campaign.”

“Oh, Zeke,” said Cal. “What if we aren’t out to win? We’re just out there to stir things up and maybe get one issue out in front?”

“But, isn’t this too, I don’t know, vulgar for politics?” asked Liz.

Zeke had to laugh this time. “I’m no political historian,” he said. “But I do remember a certain cigar and all the trouble it caused. Sex and politics go hand-in-hand, Liz. I have to agree with that.”

“You did so good!” Cal said, hugging Liz again. “You should always say what’s on your mind. From now on, we’ll give you notes about the party’s position, but you are to tell it as you see it, darling!”
Liz was still flustered. “But haven’t I just ruined our chances of winning?”

Cal sat them both down on the moth-eaten couch in the dressing room. “Honey, we had a snowball’s chance before. So now we’re a melted snowball. Who cares about the office? Now we have their attention!” Her eyes sparkled. “I can’t wait for tomorrow’s paper! Oh!” she jumped up and switched the television on. “Let’s see what CNN has to say about you now!”


They watched the debate coverage for an hour in the dressing room, and turned it back on once they got to the hotel. They gathered in Liz’s room and marveled about what was happening in front of them.

While they were still in the dressing room, the 24-hour networks had stuttered and babbled incoherently in utter confusion. Had Elizabeth Stratton really just asked American women to stop having sex? Did she mean it euphemistically or literally?

By the time they were all sitting on the edge of Liz’s bed, the talk had turned to speculation about whether or not the sex strike was a planned strategy by WAP. A few pundits were adamant that Liz had simply gone off-script and said the preposterous idea as it flew through her head, as indeed, it had.

After room service had been ordered and eaten, the talking heads were wondering if people would vote for someone who flew off the handle like that and suggested such crazy ideas.

Around midnight, a pert blonde suggested that a sex strike might actually work.

Then things started to get silly. One ugly male pundit speculated that WAP had an agenda like the gays and planned to eventually have an Amazon-run government and castrate all the men in the country except for “breeders.” That was when Cal turned off Liz’s TV and shooed people back to their own rooms. She turned to Liz as she left her room.

“Honey, that was amazing,” she said softly.

“What?” asked Liz in a daze.

“The national news networks have just spent the last four hours talking about you and WAP.” Cal beamed.

“Cal, they think we’re nuts. They think I’m a crazed Amazon who wants to chop off their balls!”
“There is no such thing as bad advertising,” said Cal. “We couldn’t buy exposure like this. The phone is going to ring off the hook tomorrow! Get ready for the big leagues!” With that, Cal shut the door and left Liz alone.

Liz took off her stockings and brushed her teeth on automatic pilot. Before she knew it, she was beating her pillow and snuggling down in the cold sheets. Slowly, the day sank in. Cal was right. No matter how famous Liz had been before, nothing she had said or done had brought her the attention her performance tonight would.

She swore and whacked the pillow in frustration. Cal might be delighted by the attention, but Liz had worked really hard on not coming off like some harridan, or shrill harpy, or, worst of all, an idiot. The ugly pundit who was worried about his balls invaded her thoughts.

“How can I fight an image like that?” thought Liz.

Liz surprised herself by crying. Tears of frustration wet her cheeks as she sobbed into her pillow and mourned the loss of her credibility. She hadn’t realized that she had wanted this so much. This was the end of the campaign, and the thought of packing up and going home in disgrace made it clear that this whole time, Liz had wanted to win. Cal might be satisfied with promoting a message, but Liz wanted to walk into that big, white house and belong there, dammit.

Liz sat up in the big bed and turned on the light. She wasn’t going to sleep anytime soon, and she dreaded turning on the television again for fear some jowly monster would hurl her back into tears. She couldn’t concentrate enough even to read the trashy romance novel or study the policy notes she’d brought along. Finally, her eyes fell on a yellow pad cast aside among the papers on the desk.
Liz fumbled for her glasses and grabbed the pad and a pen. She went back to bed and turned to a clean page. She hadn’t written in bed since college when working under the covers was a compromise between sleeping and studying.

At the top of the page, Liz wrote her name and circled it. Then she wrote the names of key cities in the country: LA, Chicago, New York, Miami. She circled those and below them wrote the names of influential people–and their wives—she knew there. When Cal found her the next morning, half-sitting, glasses askew, snoring, Liz had filled eight pages with notes. It was the beginning of her plan.


This is the third chapter of Liz A. Stratton Closes the Store.
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About the Author
Maren Bradley Anderson is a writer, teacher, podcaster, blogger, and alpaca rancher who lives in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. She has written short stories and plays for years, and has recently taken to writing screenplays and novels. She teaches live and online classes on literature and writing at Western Oregon University. She has Master’s Degrees in both Literature and Teaching Writing from Humboldt State University and a B.A. in English and Studio Art from Mount Holyoke College. Maren hosts a podcast about alpacas (Paca Talk) with her husband, and blogs about alpacas and writing. Her alpacas win ribbons for conformation and fleece, plus she thinks they are darned cute. 
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